Joanne Borgella Dishes About Life After Mo’Niques Fat Chance and American Idol
I can still remember watching Joanne Borgella being crowned the first winner of Mo’Niques Fat Chance in 2005. With all that Joanne has accomplished it almost seems like centuries ago when her smile and tears melted our hearts. Not only has she been the most successful winner of the “Fat Chance” reality show but she has moved on to create her own jewelry line, appear in multiple modeling campaigns and has walked during NY Fashion Week for designer Richie Rich.
During our shoot for the April Issue, we were astounded by her strong vocals as she performed her first single right there in our studio. Joanne is passionate and talented; we are very happy to bring you a little closer to someone who is sure to become one of your new favorite plus size models.
Maddy: Many people do not believe in reality shows and that they can help a person reach their ultimate goals. Tell me how life has changed for you since Mo’Niques Fat Chance in 2005.
Joanne: Life has been amazing. After the show taped we found out my mom had cancer. While the show was airing the family was going through turmoil and my mom’s health was our main priority. It was a scary time of my life but our family has a lot of faith and we focused on her and today she is alive and cancer free.
Maddy: I’m happy to hear your mom is living a good and cancer free life. Once you were able to concentrate on your life, tell me about moving from LA Models to Wilhelmina.
Joanne: A year after I won the show I was at a party and Mikki Taylor, the former Beauty Director for Essence Magazine, asked me if I was modeling and I told her I was with LA Models and she suggested I go to Wilhelmina. She called them and spoke to one of the bookers and asked her to see me. By the time I left the party I had an appointment to see them the very next day. On the way home that evening , this white girl was staring at me and it was so obvious that it became uncomfortable. Eventually I got off the train and made it home.
The next day I was waiting to meet with a booker at Wilhelmina and who comes out? The scary white girl that was staring at me the night before! (laughs) She turned out to be a booker for the plus division and was going to give me her card but thought that it was late in the night and that I would think she was crazy. They brought me in and gave me a contract. I was so happy when I left and started singing the Mary Tyler Moore song, “I’m going to make it after all”.
Maddy: Your first job was a week later and it was a TV Segment. Tell me about it.
Joanne: I was modeling a bra on live TV for The View. It was great being able to meet everyone behind the scenes but in my head I was thinking “everyone is going to see me in my bra!”. With no experience, I had to pull from what I had seen the women do on shows like QVC and it worked.
Maddy: Tell me about your modeling work since then.
Joanne: I’ve worked on campaigns for Ashley Stewart and My Black Is Beautiful. I’ve also worked with Khols, Seventeen Magazine and Essence Magazine. I’ve also walked for designer Richie Rich in NY and Miami Fashion Week for the past 3 seasons.
Maddy: What would be your dream job as a model?
Joanne: I would love a spread in a high end fashion magazine like Vogue or Elle. I also went to school for fashion so to be able to model my own clothing line would be an amazing dream for me.
Maddy: You don’t have your own clothing line but you do have your own jewelry collection. Tell me about Ella by Joanne Borgella?
Joanne: Well about five 5 years ago I was going out and I needed a statement piece. Everything was too small or not catching my eye and I was in the jewelry district and decided to make a chain for my friend and I. The minute I stepped outside we began getting compliments from all sorts of people. As women we are used to be complimented on a lot of things but hardly ever on costume jewelry and by men. (laughs)
Maddy: What kind of jewelry does Ella by Joanne Borgella offer?
Joanne: I believe in statement pieces that are size appropriate. Smaller pieces can sometimes get lost on a larger woman. I use semi precious gemstones, precious metal and crystals as well as hand painted beads. The items range from $50 to $400. I offer rings and necklaces.
Maddy: You’ve had great success with your jewelry line. Tell me about where your jewelry has been seen.
Joanne: Aubrey O’Day from Danity Kane wore my ring on the cover of PLAYBOY Magazine, it’s also been used during Mercedes Benz Fashion week in New York, magazine editorials and macys.com.
Maddy: You are one of the curvier girls on the Wilhelmina board and having worked with you on the April Issue – I have to say your in great shape! Tell me about your physical activity and how you maintain your curves.
Joanne: I work with a trainer once a day about 3 to 4 times a week. I’m also very realistic and I don’t beat myself up for not going to the gym every day . I watch what I eat but allow myself to have an off day here and there. I think in general people should be active about 30 to 45 minutes a few times a week as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Maddy: How do you maintain a positive healthy mindset?
Joanne: I have God in my life. Honestly, if I did not have God in my life I don’t know where I would be. I am part of an industry where I am judged for my appearance all the time. I have to look like I’m on a set when I go to see clients and at casting calls. If you don’t hear you look great, it can get to you. Judging is part of the industry but I pray and I trust in the Lord and I know that this is my path. I believe I’m a good person and beautiful in side and out. I feel my confidence comes from genuine faith and that the knowledge that I’m on this earth for a reason. Its not easy as a plus size woman in both the music and modeling industry but I stick with my path because I know that God wants me to share the gift of song and the gifts he has given me.
Maddy: Some plus models are offended by being referred to as plus size models. Do you care to comment on this?
Joanne: I’m not offended at all about being referred to as a plus size model. I Identify with plus size women because this is who I am. I know what it’s like to rush to the nearest H & M to try and grab a Large or X-Large only to get there and not find a single one but see 15 size 0 and double zero’s.
Maddy: Being on set with you was one of the most memorable experiences for me. I have never had a model sing on set before. How long have you been passionate about your singing.
Joanne: On American Idol, I was told I could not sing so I have been through a lot and that can change a person but I know who I am and its not about money or fame but setting out to reach my dream. I’ve been singing since I was three years old – I would sing to people who came to our house when I was a little girl. I would lock them in the guest room to sing to them. In this business you can get discouraged because of all the “no’s” but pushing through them is the key.
Maddy: Let’s talk about your music career. Tell me about being a singer in a music industry that puts so much pressure on being thin.
Joanne: Its difficult for someone that is not a size 2 or 4 to be in the music industry. With me, they want to categorize me as a neo soul singer because of the way I look instead of my vocals. I put my foot down because I like to sing dance music; my style is similar to old school Donna Summers songs. After American Idol I took some time off to gather my thoughts but I know this is what I want to do and I now have clarity and music is flowing through me.
Maddy: As a Haitian native you were touched by the massive destruction the earthquake left behind. We interviewed you in the February issue of PLUS in regards to the relief efforts. Do you have any updates for us?
Joanne: Well it’s rain season right now and there are still a lot of people that do not have homes and are living in tent cities. There are a lot of charities but the people are not seeing the money. It almost seems like the money is not reaching the people. I still think the best thing to do is for people to send food and clothing. I’m not there but I have family that does live there as well as my best friend. She happens to be here this week visiting from Haiti so I’m showing her a great time while she is here. I know a lot of people don’t see the beautiful parts of Haiti and only see poverty but I grew up there for a while and I developed as a young lady and as a person during those years my family spent in Haiti. The Haitian people have great faith and strength and I believe the country will overcome and come back up and be better than before. I do hope to see this in my lifetime.
Maddy: Not to get too personal but are you seeing anyone special right now?
Joanne: I just ended something with someone that was very nice but not the person for me. I want to be with someone that understands me and realizes that I’m a package deal. My family is a very big part of who I am and I’m very goal oriented. I rather be alone and happy than be with the wrong person.
Maddy: Many of your fans and admirers are young women. What do you want to say to them?
Joanne: I want them to know that they are beautiful and even when they are the biggest girl within a group of friends or anywhere you should not feel insecure about who you are. Be proud of who you are as a person and walk with your head up high.
Maddy: What is in the horizon for Joanne Borgella?
Joanne: I want to expand my jewelry line and opening up a clothing line. I want to make clothes with a young city chic feel to it and continue to model and be a great representation within the plus size industry.
Maddy: We wish you much continued success.